Milestones are amazing. Not only it lets you take note of the progress but also help you take a pause and reflect on the journey so far. Be it the halfway mark on a trek or the joy of reaching the peak or even better finishing a trek successfully, or write the blog post just in time, milestones are very rewarding.
So today, the 25th day of October 2020 I hit a significant milestone in my writing journey. This blog post marks the 24th weekly blog post and boy it was nothing short of an exciting journey. So today, after having spent the past 6 months writing, I want to take a break and reflect on the journey so far. What follows is a journey of how it started, how my writing process evolved and the journey ahead.
How It Started
As we already know, 2020 will be remembered as the year of Corona and lockdown. Few even curse it for putting brakes to their travel plans. I was one among them at the beginning. But soon it became very apparent that this was going to last for a while. For someone who travelled almost every other weekend, this was a major setback. Moreover, I had a lot of trips as part of my goals this year.
So, I fell back into my chair thinking about ways to cope up with this. On the other hand, I was already leveraging the habits system I built to be able to work on things I love. I was reading, writing, doing exercise and learning regularly. I had also finished learning the basics of SEO by then and wanted to experiment those on my writing as well.
So, I was writing continuously, I wanted to experiment with the SEO basics I learnt and at the same time figure out ways to satisfy my wanderlust.
That’s when it dawned upon me. Why can’t I combine all of them together? Why can’t I relive all the trips I went on previously by writing about them and at the same time implement the SEO techniques I learned. That’s how the weekend blogging series started.
My Writing Process
Now that I made up my mind about what to write. It was time to figure out how to write it. From my habits system, I had already developed a habit to write every day for approximately 1-1.5 hours. So allocating time or my mental headspace wasn’t a challenge at all. But I didn’t want to publish anything just yet. I wanted to perfect it.
A month went by quickly and in May I was staring at a huge collection of blog posts sitting there in the drafts. I read them over and over again to optimize for more keywords, to refine the story a little more akin to what a well-written blog post looks like. But I figured if I keep reviewing it over and over again, I will just keep moving in circles. Also, it was frustrating that I was writing every day but didn’t have any measure to reward myself for success.
That’s when I published a few posts on personal finance and two travel blogs. But it wasn’t before May 18th that I resolved to write at a predictable rate and publish at a steady rate.
No Such Thing Called Perfection
But what the heck changed? Just a day before, I was this crazy person scrambling to make every blog post I write the perfect one ever. Turns out, learning from the best is a sure shot way to improve oneself. So, As luck had it, I was reading about Nick Maggiulli (one of my idols in the writing space). His approach was simple. Make a schedule and stick to it. He said that’s the one rule he wouldn’t break, no matter what.
Everything else is just a passing cloud. Your ideation process changes, your storytelling skills improve, the way you structure blog posts changes. But if there is one thing you gotta do, it is to stick to a schedule and publish on that day, no matter what.
That was the trigger point. And I resolved to publish one blog post every week come what may. I read about other inspiring travel writers like Neelima Vallangi, Shivya Nath, Savi & Vid (of Bruised Passports fame). What I realized and this is strikingly common across a lot of successful people is that they all just held onto one thing and kept putting effort on it.
I realized I can’t improve my writing if I was hell-bent on perfecting one blog post. Getting better at anything is a long process and the only way out is to keep doing it continuously.
That’s How I wanted to write. Just one blog post every week about just one thing. On May 18th I published the first blog(Lessons From The Dhandho Investor Book) and that got the snowball rolling.
The Feedback Loop
While blog posts like The Lessons From Dhandho Investor and A Little Book That beats The Market were interesting posts, they did nothing more than summarize those books. I wanted to do more than just summarize stuff. Moreover, writing about personal finance and personal growth was something very new to me. But those topics were so close to my heart that I wanted to write about them. Surface-level advice is of no use to anyone. What people want to learn is a practical guide.
But when I looked at the people I was sharing the blogs with, not many of them had the basic knowledge to be able to understand what I was talking about.
So I switched gears and said, Am gonna use a medium that people in my network relate to. I want to wrap the essential personal growth principles in words and communicate through that medium. That’s how I resumed travel writing.
It was nothing more than sharing my experience and learnings from all those trips. But soon I turned to those blog posts to write my heart out. many of those trips were almost 2 years old, but looking back, I was able to comprehend the critical role each one played. That zoomed out view of things showed how far I came from where and who I was.
And that was my precious discovery and I realized the magic of pushing stuff out continuously. As you keep writing and jumping to the next one, you will put yourself in newer situations. That will help you grow. But I didn’t improve much till the 10th blog post or so.
Leveraging The Lessons
But why didn’t I improve much? Because I wasn’t sharing these posts with anyone. Okay! well, barring a few of my close friends, I wasn’t actively publicizing any blog post.
And it just so happened that I was learning digital marketing at that time. Of course it was part of my goals for the year. But the timing couldn’t have been better. I had the content to publicize and all I had to do was to leverage the social media techniques I was learning to drive more people to my content.
Looking back, I think actively marketing the content was the best step to my growth. The Google Analytics dashboard, the Google console dashboard gave me enough data on which channels were working. I was quickly leveraging the data to channelize my efforts. After all, I was a one-man army and I had to pick my battles.
Fast forward today, about 40% of the traffic comes from direct sources. Meaning people clicking the link I sent them or shared directly. About 35% of the traffic comes from my social media networks across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But my biggest shocker is that around 20% of the traffic comes from Search and it keeps growing as I keep publishing more content. Mind you, I was just optimizing the content for keywords to date. I wasn’t actively spending time to build backlinks.
But I know, if and when I want to improve traffic, I know what I need to focus on. All of this wouldn’t have been possible if I just kept refining that first blog post.
The Magic Of Public Accountability
While I was writing continuously and publishing at a decent pace. Something unexpected happened for the 9th or 10th blog post. I was addicted to some TV series at the time and I kept pushing the writing to the next day. All of a sudden it was Saturday and I wasn’t ready with the blog post. I realized, without accountability, I wouldn’t be able to sustain this habit for long.
One can rely on mental strength only to some extent. So along with actively marketing the blog post, I was also setting an expectation for the readers.
“Hope you’re having a good weekend, Here’s your weekly dose of wanderlust”– That’s the message I sent out to people along with the blog post. I think it made a huge difference. Human beings are fundamentally social animals. We crave belonging, we crave a status. My status was the reputation I built to publish no matter what.
It worked like magic. You wouldn’t believe when I say, on 2 occasions, I woke up on a Saturday morning and didn’t have any blog post to share. I was travelling and attending a few family rituals, so I couldn’t find time to write in those weeks. But moments later, my brain not only came up with an idea for the blog post, but it worked up the title and the content as well. All I had to do was to just start typing. The words just flow like water down a hill. It didn’t matter if I was in front of my laptop or my mobile. I just pulled out the device and started typing it out.
The Art Of Storytelling
Somewhere along the line, I figured the places I wrote about didn’t actually matter. Every travel blogger was writing about “How to get there”, “What to see and do” etc. I didn’t want to be that blogger who writes for algorithms and search engines. I wanted to be someone who puts the reader at the centre of the action. Letting them experience what I saw, what I felt, what I took back and the memories I made.
I wanted to be a storyteller who writes. I wanted to share my unique perspective with the world. Very soon, I was in another dilemma. If I focus more on the storytelling aspects, then I would lose on the SEO. And if I focus on SEO, I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories in a way that I wanted to.
So I had to make a tough choice. If I should tone down the effort on SEO or let go of the storytelling. It was certainly one of the hardest choices one can make as a digital content creator.
To Pay Heed To The Algorithms Or Share Your Unique Perspective. That’s The Challenge
But, After a couple of weeks of intense introspection, I chose to go ahead with storytelling. The decision was hinged on just one question. Why was I doing what I was doing? It wasn’t to impress algorithms. Although I knew about the money a high traffic website could make, It wasn’t my primary goal. It wasn’t even to brag that I have a website or I do this or that.
The Purpose Of It All
At the centre of why I was writing was to get unfold my life in front of me. To look at things I have done with fresh eyes every time. I was writing for myself first and in that journey, if others find something useful for their own lives, then well that’s great. But this website exists for my own expression and I shouldn’t bow down to impress algorithms.
I know I am hard-headed, but that’s the way I look at things. So in the blog posts that followed, I kept refining my story writing skills. I really loved doing that. It was like a flywheel where I published one story about a trip and I couldn’t wait to start the next one to beat the one I published and the next one and so on.
The Curse Of Reading A Lot
But how do I have so many different perspectives about a seemingly simple thing like travelling from place A to place B? Yes, I ask that myself a lot. Sometimes, when I read the drafts I wrote about a trip, the perspectives just baffle me. Especially this concluding blog post on the ride along the coastal Karnataka was such a beauty. It was so good, that I had this indescribably satisfying feeling in my head.
And all of those perspectives are a result of the intense reading I do. In a typical week, I read content ranging from Investing in stock markets, the good life of stoics, autobiographies, insightful posts on business, the laid back life of slow travelling and much more. This wide spectrum of ideas isn’t related at all in the first glance. But once those ideas are in your head, your brain works its magic to relate things and bring out conclusions that are otherwise impossible to derive.
These conclusions sort of make up the lens with which you start viewing the world and that changes everything.
The Road Ahead
Phewww!! Did I cover everything I learned? Maybe or Maybe not. It’s my blog and I can always go back and edit it. But where do we go from here?
Well, before I answer that, I think an important question to answer is where am I today. Today I am in a situation where I can comfortably write one blog post every week. I can spend a good amount of time reading things that interest me. I am still getting my hands dirty with the exciting stuff of Marketing. There’s still a lot left to do, but I think I have made good progress from where I was back in January 2020.
A reliable system to keep churning out content, an amazing pipeline of reading material to refine my perspectives and writing and newfound love to share my work. That’s where I stand today.
Leveraging these systems, in the short term, I will continue to write travel blogs until all the planned ones are written. Perhaps, once I start travelling, you can expect a blog post as and when the trip happens. In the medium term, I am going to write about personal growth. What helped me get where I am today despite the odds. And thanks to this amazing journey of posting continuously week on week, I realized the surprising power of the long term. If I can add so much value in such a short timespan, imagine the difference it would make if I keep doing it over a longer period of time.
But if someone who understands the power of long term is focusing on selfish things like travel and personal growth then who is focusing on solving the bigger problems we all face?
The Hard Long Shot
For example, climate change is a big deal, if we don’t fight it now, then the only way our future generations experience the magic of nature is through reading blogs like mine. I want to work on that, I know it’s not as simple as it sounds, but what if I take a small step towards that goal every day. Just like how I write a portion of the blog post every single day and over time it snowballs into a collection of 24 posts.
Secondly, I am interested in personal finance because of my family background. Growing up, we always had money problems. High-interest rate loans funded my entire education. But while I paid back the loan, I realized the potential of money. Money changed the game for me. If not for those loans, I wouldn’t have attended BITS Pilani and wouldn’t have been sitting here writing this. Money is an agent of change. You can use it to bring about any change you want in your life.
But many don’t even realize that. Many people just pass on money like it’s just a slice of pizza. But most don’t realize the value money can add to their lives. I want to show that, I want to drive the point about money’s potential to transform lives beyond what any of us can comprehend.
That’s what I am going to be working on and write about them at a steady pace. I also have a few ideas outside the blogging series that I want to execute. You’ll hear about them soon on my newsletter. My major takeaway from this 6-month journey is that I don’t need to have a concrete plan. I didn’t even plan to start a newsletter but in the due course but it just happened. So, I’m just gonna start and figure things out on the fly, at the same time keeping my eyes on the larger vision.
That’s It. That’s where this is headed.
If you share the same vision and want to work together on any of those two areas, ping me here.
Thanks for sparing your time reading it. Hope it was worth your time.
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This is post No. 24 of the weekend blog post series I started writing 6 months ago. If you’d like to check out the other posts, click here.
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